How to Enroll In the Best Heating and Cooling Training Program Near Gardendale Alabama
Now that you have made a decision on a career as a heating and air conditioning professional, the next action is to find an HVAC technical school near Gardendale AL. But with so many to pick from, how do you select the best one to obtain the training that you require? Many prospective students will make their selection based solely on the cost of tuition or how near the school is to their residence. Even though these are important considerations, they are not the only ones to take into account. A few of the other details that you need to investigate are the graduation completion rates of the HVAC schools, their reputations, and if they are accredited by professional trade organizations. Those and additional criteria will be covered in more detail later in this article. But before we discuss how to choose an HVAC training program, let's look at what a heating and a/c professional does to become a licensed skilled tradesman.
HVAC Certificate and Degree Classes
There are a number of options available for HVAC instruction in a technical or vocational school. You can earn a certificate, an Associate Degree, or a Bachelor's Degree. Obtaining a certificate will take the lesser amount of time, typically achieved in as little as 6 months, though some programs are longer. A certificate will train you for most HVAC positions, especially if you are licensed and have certification applicable to the position. The degree programs can provide a competitive advantage for securing employment and will deliver more in-depth training than the certificate programs. Following is a brief summary of each credential offered near Gardendale Al.
- Certificate. Usually requiring a high school diploma, certificate programs are very popular among entry level commercial or residential HVAC specialists. They furnish a solid foundation of skills for job opportunities within the trade.
- Associate Degree. The Associate Degree in HVAC program provides a more detailed knowledge of heating and cooling systems than the certificate program. Usually requiring 2 years to complete, many degrees feature an internship or work-study program.
- Bachelor's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree in HVAC is tailored more for a career in management as well as business ownership. Some programs require an Associate Degree, while others are a conventional four year program. In addition to mastering how to service and maintain heating and air conditioning systems, you will also learn how to design them.
Choosing the ideal credential program will be dependent on what your future career goals are, along with the time and money that you have to commit. One approach is to begin with a certificate or perhaps an Associate Degree program, and after getting some experience in the field in Gardendale AL, subsequently going back to earn a Bachelor's Degree. If this is your approach, make sure to ask the HVAC technician school you are looking at about how their returning student program works.
HVAC Classes Online
Attending an HVAC program online is one option in getting your education and earning a degree or certificate. Nearly all schools will require some attendance on campus to participate in hands on training. Many also provide internship or work-study programs in addition to or in place of practical lab work. But since the remainder of the classes may be attended on the web, this approach may be a more practical solution for some Gardendale AL students that are pressed for time. And many online degree programs are more economical than other on campus alternatives. Even commuting expenses from Gardendale and study supplies may be lessened, helping to make education more affordable. And numerous online programs are fully accredited (more on this later). So if your job or family commitments have left you with little time to attend classes, maybe an HVAC online training program will make it easier to accommodate school into your active schedule.
HVAC Certification and Licensing
HVAC is an acronym that is extensively used in the industry that stands for "Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning". HVAC techs provide services for the installation, repair and maintenance of central air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters and heating systems. As professional tradesmen, they are commonly required to be licensed, although each state and regional municipality has its own requirements. Attaining professional certification is not mandatory, but an alternative means for Gardendale AL HVAC specialists to prove that they are exceptionally qualified and experienced in their area of expertise. There are several respected certifications within the field that are available. Following are some of the important ones.
- North American Technician Excellence (NATE). NATE is a nationally acknowledged certification for HVAC technicians. The certification is achieved by passing a competency exam and may be received in one or more specialties.
- HVAC Excellence. This certification offers both a professional and a master specialist credential. Two years of field experience in addition to passing a comprehensive examination are needed for the professional level certification. Master specialists need to have 3 years of experience along with a passing score on the professional level examination. As with NATE, certifications are provided in multiple specialties.
- EPA Section 608. This certification is necessary for technicians that work with refrigerants. There are 3 forms of certification obtainable, one for small appliances, and the other two for low and high pressure refrigerants.
Because licensing might be required in your location, and you may also desire to acquire certification, it's essential that you enroll in an HVAC technical school that will train you for both. And since you will more than likely be handling refrigerants, make sure that the program you pick preps you for passing the EPA Section 608 examinations.
Questions to Ask Heating and Cooling Certification Classes
Once you have chosen the type of certificate or degree that you desire to attain, either on campus or online, you can start to limit your selection of schools. As you are certainly aware, there are many HVAC technical schools in the Gardendale AL area and all over the Country to pick from. That's why it is essential to have a list of key qualifiers when making school comparisons. As earlier stated in our opening paragraph, location and tuition will most likely be the initial two variables you will look at. Following are several additional ones that you need to explore before enrolling in your school of choice.
Accreditation. Many HVAC vocational programs in the Gardendale AL area have earned either a regional or a national accreditation. They can acquire Institutional Accreditation, which focuses on the school's programs overall, or Programmatic Accreditation, which pertains to a specific program, for instance HVAC technology. Verify that the program is accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization, for example the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Along with helping make certain that you get a superior education, it can help in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are often unavailable for non-accredited programs. Furthermore, many states mandate that the HVAC training course be accredited in order to qualify for licensing.
High Completion Rates. Ask the HVAC schools you are looking at what their completion rates are. The completion rate is the percentage of students who enroll in and finish the program. A low completion rate could indicate that students were disappointed with the course and quit. It may also signify that the instructors were not qualified to instruct the students. It's similarly imperative that the schools have higher job placement rates. Older and/or more reputable schools may have a more extensive list of graduates, which may produce more contacts for the school to use for their apprenticeship and job placement programs. A high job placement rate can not only validate that the school has a good reputation within the trade, but additionally that it has the network of Gardendale AL HVAC employers to help graduates obtain apprenticeships or employment.
Apprenticeship Programs. Most HVAC vocational programs are taught in conjunction with an internship or an apprenticeship program. Those participating trade and technical schools will help place you in an apprenticeship program within their network of Heating and Cooling contractors or labor unions. Ask if the schools you are comparing have working partnerships with local Gardendale AL HVAC contractors. An apprenticeship not only provides a valuable experience by providing practical training, but it also furnishes job opportunities and helps to form relationships in the regional HVAC professional community.
Modern Facilities. Make sure that the school facilities and the tools that you will be trained on are up-to-date and what you will be working with in the field. If you are already in an internship or an apprenticeship, check with the HVAC tech you are working under regarding what you should be looking for. If not, ask a local Gardendale AL HVAC contractor if they can provide some pointers. Also bear in mind that unless you are able to move, the school must be within driving distance of your Gardendale AL residence. Remember that if you decide to attend an out-of-state school, besides the added relocation costs there can be higher tuition charges compared to in-state residents.
Smaller Classes. It's desirable that you get as much personalized training as possible, which can be challenging in larger classes. Ask if you can sit in on a few of the classes so that you can observe how large they are and witness first hand the interaction between teachers and students. Speak with several of the students and get their feedback regarding class sizes and instruction. Finally, talk with some of the instructors and learn what their level of expertise is and what certifications or degrees they hold.
Flexible Scheduling. Make sure that the class schedules for the schools you are evaluating are flexible enough to handle your needs. If you can only attend classes in the evening or on weekends near Gardendale AL, check that the programs you are reviewing offer those options. If you can only attend on a part-time basis, be sure that the school you select offers part-time enrollment. Finally, check out what the protocol is to make-up classes should you miss any due to work, sickness or family emergencies.
Earn Your Heating and Cooling Certificate or Degree
Picking the right HVAC school program is a crucial first step toward a rewarding career in the heating and air conditioning industry. As we have discussed in this post, you should pick an HVAC trade school and a certificate or degree program that are both accredited and have outstanding reputations within the HVAC profession. Other factors to look for are sufficient practical training and state-of-the-art facilities. You need to go to each of the schools personally that you are most interested in to inspect the campus and talk with both the faculty and current students. Attempt to get a feel for the quality of the teaching and the interaction between them. Additionally, ask about scheduling options and if night or weekend classes are available if needed. And don't forget to inquire about financial assistance and student loan options also. If you ask the proper questions as we have detailed in our checklist for assessing schools, you'll be able to filter your choices so that you can make an educated decision. With the appropriate training, hard work and dedication, you can eventually become a licensed HVAC contractor in Gardendale AL.